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The Pen is Mightier than the ‘Sword’

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11/14/2013

The Pen is Mightier than the ‘Sword’ photo 1

Some might call me a bit of a curmudgeon. I don't like change, and I'll shake my fist at you like a kvetchy Jewish grandmother and let you know what I think. I don't like self-checkout at the grocery; I won't throw out a well-worn pair of shoes until I find an absolutely perfect replacement; and I refuse to buy an electronic reading tablet.

I love new technology and praise my iPhone nearly every day for its wondrous powers and almost omniscient Siri. But, sometimes a hand-written passive aggressive note is the best medium. I come from a family of passive aggressive note-writers. When I get angry, I might shake my fist at you … or I might just write you a long letter. That'll show you!

Some people are nimble with their fists. Others make a strong show with flailing arms and a bellowing or shrill voice. I'm not good at yelling at you on the spot. I'll write you a letter after the fact and let you know what I think. I need time to collect my thoughts and wax poetic on your wrong-doings. I can never think of my counter-arguments until after the fact-hence, the passive aggressive note.

The funny thing about passive aggressive notes is that they rarely work.

When I write a passive aggressive note, bleeding my grievances via pen to paper, I expect the recipient to tear their sleeve in shame and apologize. Usually people read such notes and they just get angrier.

I saw yesterday that RedEye Chicago and several other news sources reported on the comment explosion on Reddit.com regarding a passive aggressive door note exchange between two (likely-Chicago) neighbors regarding one of the neighbor's loud and disturbing sex noises. Why a comment explosion on Reddit.com is worthy of the attention of several news sources is worthy of a whole different conversation for another day. However, I totally get why people latched on to this story.

There are about two or three instances in my entire life in which my perfectly-crafted letters solicited the response I desired. Once such instance involved a letter I wrote to my neighbor about a year ago asking him to tone down the loud sex noises from up above.

What I've learned from years of passive aggressive note-writing:

1. Kill 'em with humor and a touch of shame (will probably work).
2. Kill 'em with kindness (might just work).
3. Kill 'em with Jewish guilt (probably won't work).

After a couple weeknights of waking up to the sounds of giggles, thrashes, moans and screams, I couldn't take it anymore. My bed shook below my neighbor and his lady friend to the rhythm of their "music." I learned during those treacherous and sleepless nights that our old, three-flat building's walls are not only paper thin, our floors are too.  I tried burying my head in my pillows, raising the volume on my TV, and even (in all my curmudgeon glory) got out my broom and gave the handle a tappidy tap and then a whackidy whack at my ceiling-only to receive giggles in return. It was time for my Sharpie and a clean piece of paper.

I crafted my passive aggressive note carefully and with some grace, unlike my counterpart featured on Reddit.com. I wish I still had the masterfully-written note; my neighbor kept it (for posterity?) after finding it tacked to his apartment door with a piece of Scotch tape.

In my note, I began by commending my neighbor for his performance. "I applaud you," I remember writing. However, I continued, noting the shoddy insulation in our walls and floors, and the noise that escapes. I politely asked that I no longer be an unwilling participant in his romps. I began with a compliment, explained the particularities of the problem, and made my demands.

The folks in the Reddit.com photo handled it all wrong. They met anger with anger. Not to mention, the girl's claims of her neighbor's attacks on her sexual expression as "slut shaming" are just a little far-fetched. I'm a self-proclaimed feminist and even I can see the holes in that argument. Sex noises are sex noises-if they're disturbing my beauty sleep, I don't care who is making them. I digress.

My neighbor's response note, Scotch taped to our door was so shocking-particularly, because it was so nice (and yes, I've saved it for posterity and have presented it to you below).

The Pen is Mightier than the ‘Sword’ photo 2

"Hi girls,

I'm really sorry about the noise.
If I had any idea how thin the floor
was I never would have bothered you. It
won't happen again (so loudly [winky face])." 

Our neighbor matched our kind/humorous tone with a cheeky "wink" at the end. I was so proud that I had achieved the impossible! I had used the power of passive aggressive note persuasion to get someone to change their ways.

Later that week, my roommate ran into our neighbor and he admitted his subsequently embarrassed girlfriend wrote the response. While I found this news disappointing, I've enjoyed sleep-time radio silence ever since our door note exchange. 

A Not Passive Aggressive Note: Fellow note-writers, visitPassiveAggressiveNotes.com. 

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